Want to learn more about the multi-talented cellist-composer India Yeshe Gailey and their new album to you through? Read on.
One of the joys of my job is discovering new cellists, cellos, and cello music. This month, I spoke with the talented cellist and composer (also poet, visual artist, and meditation facilitator), India Yeshe Gailey, to learn more about their album, to you through, released on 13 May 2022.
Meet India Yeshe Gailey – An Innovative and Multi-Talented Artist
“India Yeshe Gailey (she/they) is an American Canadian cellist, composer, and improviser currently based in Halifax, Nova Scotia. Pinned as “a young musician to watch” (Scotia Festival), she draws from many eras and genres to craft poetic narratives of sound, most often performing in the realms of classical and experimental music. She frequently works with living composers, musicians outside of the Western Classical tradition, and the intersection of standard and obscure.” – Artist’s website
The following interview has been lightly edited for clarity and length.
Discovering the Cello
Cello Museum (CM):
Why the cello? How did you get started playing the cello?
India Yeshe Gailey (IYG)
I first started learning music on the violin – I really wanted to play Vivaldi’s Four Seasons – when I was seven years old. I was very close friends with the children of two accomplished fiddlers, Kate Dunlay and David Greenberg, with whom I studied.
But there had always been a student cello in my parents’ house. My mom had begun learning to play it while pregnant with me and continued a bit when I was small. By the time I was ten, and my friend Owen had begun learning cello, I was inspired to try it, too. The full-size instrument was taller than I was, and my hands were tiny, but it somehow felt more natural than the violin.
What cello(s) do you play and use for performance and recording?
I play on a contemporary Czech instrument made in 2016 by Alexander Havelka, usually with a François Malo (Montréal) Peccatte model bow. For gnarlier sounds and col legno situations, I use a carbon fiber bow.
An Interdisciplinary Path
What was the spark that set you off on your interdisciplinary path?
I don’t know if there was a specific moment, really. I’ve always wanted to do everything, both within and outside of music. My first love was dance, but apparently, I was a bit too weird to make it in ballet.
My parents listened to a wide variety of music when I was growing up. When I first got my violin, I made up my own pieces on it, which I remember involving mostly open strings.
At the Gaelic College in Cape Breton, I learned how to make accompaniments for a tune. I took up alto sax in middle school, played in the jazz band, and was put on the spot for solos. In high school, I played in the orchestra, but I also played various instruments in indie rock bands, the most serious of which was called Kawajabear.
In undergrad, I had opportunities to study composition, improvisation, and Javanese gamelan, so I seized them. It always seemed like there was so much interesting music to explore beyond the traditional cello canon.
Advice for Cellists Wanting to Explore Different Kinds of Music
What advice do you have for other cellists who are interested in exploring different kinds of music but don’t know where or how to start?
There are so many things you can do! You can listen to the music you are interested in, try playing along with recordings, and see what you can figure out just using your ears. There are so many online resources now. You can watch little tutorials on style and technique, often for free. And if there aren’t cello-specific resources, there are violin or viola videos – or lectures relevant to any instrument.
If you are able to attend a workshop of any length, that’s a great way to try out a new realm and meet some people involved in that scene. If you live somewhere where there are concerts or jam sessions, go to them, and talk to the people there. You might end up connecting with someone you enjoy making music with.
An Artist of Many Talents
You are not only a cellist but also a composer, visual artist, poet, and meditation facilitator. Please tell us about the intersection of these – and any other fields you’d like to mention.
I feel like all forms of art come from being open and remaining present with the senses and the mind. So while the tools of expression vary, this seed of direct perception is the heart of it all. And in that heart, the senses overlap a bit; we all live in these incomprehensibly receptive bodies. Emotion is sound, is movement, is shape, is color.
For me, when composing, the connection between visual and sonic helps me figure out what the music is; working with images helps me find the sounds. Just as music and visual art can pierce us, so too can words and avant-garde grammar.
I find meditation to be a useful tool for tuning into the depth of human experience on both an individual and collective level. I often work with other artists of various disciplines; in a way, it isn’t so different from getting inside the skin of a chamber music partner to blend with their sound.
With a dance company, a sculpture, a poem, whatever, there’s a sense of empathy, unifying with the work and translating some aspect of it into the musical plane.
New Album: to you through
Please tell us about your album, to you through, that’s coming out this month.
to you through is a compilation of sounds I love, with pieces by Philip Glass, Michael Gordon, Fjóla Evans, Yaz Lancaster, Anne Leilehua Lanzilotti, and myself, chosen for the sonic throughlines, poetic harmonies, and overlapping personal connections between each piece. The album is something of a reflection on prisms— performer as a filter for the music, but also very much part of it; the blurred lines between composer and performer, and the interconnection of individuals.
What upcoming projects can we look forward to over the next year?
I have a recording of “Bookburners” by Nicole Lizée that should be coming out in the fall, and I’ll be releasing an album of new commissions sometime next winter.
How to Follow and Support India Yeshe Gailey
How can people follow you and support your work?
Buying a CD on the Redshift Records’ Bandcamp would be a wonderful way to support my work. I am most active on Instagram, but can also be followed via Facebook, my personal Bandcamp page, email newsletter, YouTube, and streaming platforms. I appreciate all shares and likes!
- Purchase to you through (release date: 13 May 2022)
- Purchase their debut album, Lucid (release date: 15 December 2017)
- Website (be sure to sign up for their newsletter)
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